Losing the War against Drugs

I can still vividly remember walking through run-down Neapolitan suburbs as a seventeen-year old, firmly within the grasp of an LSD trip.  As I walked through the tall, unkempt grass and weeds, they brushed against my knees as though greeting me with a handshake.  The summer sun was looking down upon me, and the rays felt as though they were shining into my body, as though I was illuminated and radiating life back into the universe.  Though I usually noticed the garbage on the messy Italian streets, that day it seemed less prominent, if not unnoticeable, and nature's Technicolor vibrancy jumped from objects which would have been previously considered not only ordinary, but also drab.  I was -- at least I felt as though I were -- totally connected with reality, as though something that I had lost along the way had suddenly been found, and I was home.

Explaining an LSD trip to someone who hasn't experienced one usually invokes wonder or disgust, but it's what really happens, at least in the psychedelic adventurer's head.  To make things more exciting for me as a young man, this transfer of consciousness into transcendental bliss had come after a hard year of disillusionment.  A home-schooler raised by devout Christian parents (whom I never deserved) and having experienced Christ, I had decided, though never quite entirely, that God didn't exist.  To make things worse, aside from losing a caring Creator, I had always felt as though I would never be loved by anyone outside my family.  I'd spent much time fantasizing about meeting the woman of my dreams, but my excessive weight problem, certain personal abnormalities, and problems with anxiety made me feel as though I would die a lonely man.  And this crushed my spirit.

When I sought drugs, I did so primarily to fit in with the cool kids so I could boost my status and find a mate.  Sometimes, I felt as though I was on the verge of success.  Late nights on ecstasy, bonding with "friends" and women who would disappear when the high wore off, oftentimes gave the momentary impression that I wasn't alone, that I was accepted.  It was as though I could talk, and others would listen.  I could hug, and profess love, and not be turned away.  I could meet new people, and they would instantly appreciate me.

But my eventual addiction to cocaine, klonopins, and tequila, in combination with an emasculating yet trendy college liberalism, ironically made me unappealing to any women who would have been good partners.  By the end of my drug habit, I was alone more than ever.  I felt useless, unattractive, sleazy, and many times, I would have preferred to be dead.  And although the lie of drugs should have become more clear to me -- that the promises it made, that I would be cool, that women would love me, that I would find peace through intoxication, had dissipated further into the air with every puff from a bong -- I clung harder to drugs out of desperation.  I would wake up some mornings plastered to my pillow with my own blood, the product of ruptured nasal passages.  Sometimes, I would swallow dangerous amounts of medications, just to see how high I could get without dying.  Although I was walking, breathing, and capable of looking you right in the eyes and saying that things were fine -- and maybe you might believe that I was doing well -- behind my smiling face was a hollow shell, completely devoid of life and joy. 

I don't believe I was ever alone in this desperation.  In all the years I spent as a drug addict, I'm surprised to have never discovered this.  I guess the fact that I was on drugs is a valid excuse.  But I now know there were many others around me who were in the same position as I was, crying for help but unable to say so without looking too vulnerable.  We were trying to be cool, after all.  And coolness was killing us.

But what my experience with drug addiction taught me, first and foremost, is that drug-smuggling Mexicans aren't the drug problem, and they aren't causing the drug problem.  Please don't misunderstand my point: they're a menace to our society, and they must be combated with utmost seriousness (I personally advocate properly sealing the border and the death penalty for anyone who deals methamphetamine or heroin or is caught laundering serious drug money).  But if we are to be at all serious about saving people from the horrors of human abasement, those very people must have something to live for greater than momentary pleasure.  They must have hope.  But hope in what?

Liberals are wrong when they say that giving a kid a chance at an education will accomplish this task.  You give an empty, lonely, directionless, hurting person -- a potential drug addict -- an education, and all you've got is an educated drug addict.  We can't combat drug abuse with feel-good rhetoric and can-do attitude, because hope in careers can take you only so far, and the warmth of philanthropy fades.  Many of us know, despite what some may say, that placing our meaning entirely in the United States of America will end in anger and frustration.  And we definitely know, after forty years, a trillion dollars, and numerous lives spent on the War against Drugs, that we can't win the war with the sword.

Now consider what we tell our children, as public policy.  We tell them that they are alone in the universe, that their lives have absolutely no impact upon the great void.  We tell them that everything they fight for, everything they believe in, is a postmodern matter of opinion.  We tell them that pleasure is their right, and yet that as they age, they will receive less pleasure, and more pain, and that they cannot reverse this process.  We tell them that marriage doesn't work anymore, that true love, true commitment doesn't exist, and that they can't trust the people whom they should trust the most.  And finally, we fill the void with tons of useless products and entertainment and psychologically-manipulative advertising campaigns about what happiness should be and where we can get it with our paychecks, all illusory things which most -- if not all -- will never achieve.

Now allow me to ask you: is this what you tell someone whose self-destructive habit you want to reverse?  Or is this what you say when you want them to hit the gas pedal?  I know -- placing ourselves in these terms isn't an uplifting message.  But this is who we are, and this is what we tell our children.  We are a consumptive, meaningless people without a Creator, without a purpose other than ourselves, and heading toward an eventually painful decay and death.  

You should probably know that I have been clean and sober for quite some time now, that I've found and committed myself to the woman of my dreams, and above all else, that I've placed my life in the hands of my Creator.  These days, although at times I remember the acid trip fondly, although I occasionally wonder how easy writing would be if I just had a line of coke, I have found joy and hope, so these thoughts fade into nothing.  I know where I am going when I die, I know whom I serve, and I know what love is.  My life has meaning, which is far more than I know most people -- especially drug addicts -- have.  And this joy has completely replaced my need for escape, my desire for intoxication.  These days, thankfully, I can enjoy a beer and know I won't spiral into an inebriated hell-ride. 

Please don't misunderstand me.  Drug addicts are not victims -- they are responsible for their behavior.  Without understanding this principle of personal responsibility, that who you are and your temporary chemical makeup do not determine your status under the law, we wouldn't have a real system of justice.  But behind the responsibility must lie a reason to want something other than pleasure, something other than an escape.  And if we citizens of the United States of America -- one of the most drug-hungry populations -- expect that the people who represent our values in office are going to somehow deliver us from a terrible soul-cancer, we are wrong.  We have to start with giving the individual soul hope. 

I have an answer to the void: it is purpose.  My question to you is, what do you have to offer your children so they can live for something better than an easily accessible, temporary escape from nihilism?  If we haven't got an answer, then I would say the war on drugs has already been lost.

Jeremy Egerer is a recent convert to Christian conservatism from radical liberalism and is the editor of the Seattle website www.americanclarity.com.
I can still vividly remember walking through run-down Neapolitan suburbs as a seventeen-year old, firmly within the grasp of an LSD trip.  As I walked through the tall, unkempt grass and weeds, they brushed against my knees as though greeting me with a handshake.  The summer sun was looking down upon me, and the rays felt as though they were shining into my body, as though I was illuminated and radiating life back into the universe.  Though I usually noticed the garbage on the messy Italian streets, that day it seemed less prominent, if not unnoticeable, and nature's Technicolor vibrancy jumped from objects which would have been previously considered not only ordinary, but also drab.  I was -- at least I felt as though I were -- totally connected with reality, as though something that I had lost along the way had suddenly been found, and I was home.

Explaining an LSD trip to someone who hasn't experienced one usually invokes wonder or disgust, but it's what really happens, at least in the psychedelic adventurer's head.  To make things more exciting for me as a young man, this transfer of consciousness into transcendental bliss had come after a hard year of disillusionment.  A home-schooler raised by devout Christian parents (whom I never deserved) and having experienced Christ, I had decided, though never quite entirely, that God didn't exist.  To make things worse, aside from losing a caring Creator, I had always felt as though I would never be loved by anyone outside my family.  I'd spent much time fantasizing about meeting the woman of my dreams, but my excessive weight problem, certain personal abnormalities, and problems with anxiety made me feel as though I would die a lonely man.  And this crushed my spirit.

When I sought drugs, I did so primarily to fit in with the cool kids so I could boost my status and find a mate.  Sometimes, I felt as though I was on the verge of success.  Late nights on ecstasy, bonding with "friends" and women who would disappear when the high wore off, oftentimes gave the momentary impression that I wasn't alone, that I was accepted.  It was as though I could talk, and others would listen.  I could hug, and profess love, and not be turned away.  I could meet new people, and they would instantly appreciate me.

But my eventual addiction to cocaine, klonopins, and tequila, in combination with an emasculating yet trendy college liberalism, ironically made me unappealing to any women who would have been good partners.  By the end of my drug habit, I was alone more than ever.  I felt useless, unattractive, sleazy, and many times, I would have preferred to be dead.  And although the lie of drugs should have become more clear to me -- that the promises it made, that I would be cool, that women would love me, that I would find peace through intoxication, had dissipated further into the air with every puff from a bong -- I clung harder to drugs out of desperation.  I would wake up some mornings plastered to my pillow with my own blood, the product of ruptured nasal passages.  Sometimes, I would swallow dangerous amounts of medications, just to see how high I could get without dying.  Although I was walking, breathing, and capable of looking you right in the eyes and saying that things were fine -- and maybe you might believe that I was doing well -- behind my smiling face was a hollow shell, completely devoid of life and joy. 

I don't believe I was ever alone in this desperation.  In all the years I spent as a drug addict, I'm surprised to have never discovered this.  I guess the fact that I was on drugs is a valid excuse.  But I now know there were many others around me who were in the same position as I was, crying for help but unable to say so without looking too vulnerable.  We were trying to be cool, after all.  And coolness was killing us.

But what my experience with drug addiction taught me, first and foremost, is that drug-smuggling Mexicans aren't the drug problem, and they aren't causing the drug problem.  Please don't misunderstand my point: they're a menace to our society, and they must be combated with utmost seriousness (I personally advocate properly sealing the border and the death penalty for anyone who deals methamphetamine or heroin or is caught laundering serious drug money).  But if we are to be at all serious about saving people from the horrors of human abasement, those very people must have something to live for greater than momentary pleasure.  They must have hope.  But hope in what?

Liberals are wrong when they say that giving a kid a chance at an education will accomplish this task.  You give an empty, lonely, directionless, hurting person -- a potential drug addict -- an education, and all you've got is an educated drug addict.  We can't combat drug abuse with feel-good rhetoric and can-do attitude, because hope in careers can take you only so far, and the warmth of philanthropy fades.  Many of us know, despite what some may say, that placing our meaning entirely in the United States of America will end in anger and frustration.  And we definitely know, after forty years, a trillion dollars, and numerous lives spent on the War against Drugs, that we can't win the war with the sword.

Now consider what we tell our children, as public policy.  We tell them that they are alone in the universe, that their lives have absolutely no impact upon the great void.  We tell them that everything they fight for, everything they believe in, is a postmodern matter of opinion.  We tell them that pleasure is their right, and yet that as they age, they will receive less pleasure, and more pain, and that they cannot reverse this process.  We tell them that marriage doesn't work anymore, that true love, true commitment doesn't exist, and that they can't trust the people whom they should trust the most.  And finally, we fill the void with tons of useless products and entertainment and psychologically-manipulative advertising campaigns about what happiness should be and where we can get it with our paychecks, all illusory things which most -- if not all -- will never achieve.

Now allow me to ask you: is this what you tell someone whose self-destructive habit you want to reverse?  Or is this what you say when you want them to hit the gas pedal?  I know -- placing ourselves in these terms isn't an uplifting message.  But this is who we are, and this is what we tell our children.  We are a consumptive, meaningless people without a Creator, without a purpose other than ourselves, and heading toward an eventually painful decay and death.  

You should probably know that I have been clean and sober for quite some time now, that I've found and committed myself to the woman of my dreams, and above all else, that I've placed my life in the hands of my Creator.  These days, although at times I remember the acid trip fondly, although I occasionally wonder how easy writing would be if I just had a line of coke, I have found joy and hope, so these thoughts fade into nothing.  I know where I am going when I die, I know whom I serve, and I know what love is.  My life has meaning, which is far more than I know most people -- especially drug addicts -- have.  And this joy has completely replaced my need for escape, my desire for intoxication.  These days, thankfully, I can enjoy a beer and know I won't spiral into an inebriated hell-ride. 

Please don't misunderstand me.  Drug addicts are not victims -- they are responsible for their behavior.  Without understanding this principle of personal responsibility, that who you are and your temporary chemical makeup do not determine your status under the law, we wouldn't have a real system of justice.  But behind the responsibility must lie a reason to want something other than pleasure, something other than an escape.  And if we citizens of the United States of America -- one of the most drug-hungry populations -- expect that the people who represent our values in office are going to somehow deliver us from a terrible soul-cancer, we are wrong.  We have to start with giving the individual soul hope. 

I have an answer to the void: it is purpose.  My question to you is, what do you have to offer your children so they can live for something better than an easily accessible, temporary escape from nihilism?  If we haven't got an answer, then I would say the war on drugs has already been lost.

Jeremy Egerer is a recent convert to Christian conservatism from radical liberalism and is the editor of the Seattle website www.americanclarity.com.